New Tesla Model 3 versus used Tesla Model S: verdict
There's no bad car here, so you can pick which one suits your lifestyle and budget best, but the Model 3’s lower costs sway it for us
First place: Tesla Model 3
The Model 3 really is as significant a car as the Model S was when it arrived. It takes all of the Model S’ great aspects and makes them more accessible, and it’s that accessibility that secures the win here.
The monthly finance in particular will make a Model 3 more affordable for a lot of people, where the Model S may remain out of reach even on the used market.
Added to that the interior design, faster charging capacity, impressive equipment levels and a tidy, enjoyable handling and comfort, and we’re totally sold on it.
Second place: Tesla Model S
This is still one of the best electric cars out there, and it does feel a class above the Model 3. It comes with a sense of ‘Lording It’ over others that the daintier Model 3 misses out on.
Not only that, the space and performance are good enough reasons on their own to justify a full-fat Model S (although the 3 Performance can of course punch just as hard as most S variants).
It’s money that sways it in the end. Not only finance, but even buying outright you can be looking at a lot more for a used S than a new 3, and that’s enough to tip the scales in the smaller car’s favour.
2021 Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus
2017 Tesla Model S 75D
from £40,000 (estimated)
Single-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Single-speed auto, four-wheel drive
0-60/30-70mph (on test)
Braking (70-0/60-0/30-0mph, on test)
Energy consumption (on test)
At-home charge cost (13p/kWh)
Tailpipe CO2 emissions
£320 (years 2-6)
In This Review
- 1IntroductionThe Tesla Model 3 has few if any direct rivals, but what about a used Model S? We put a Model 3 Standard Range up against a secondhand Model S 75D
- 2Range & chargingThe Model 3 is one of the fastest charging cars on sale, and delivers a similar real-world range to a used Model S
- 3Running costs & warrantyYou get a longer warranty on a new Model 3, but its mileage is limited where the Model S’ isn’t. Both are well equipped, but aren’t cheapWith the exception of pre-2015 Model S’ with 60kWh packs, all Model S variants come with an eight-year battery warranty that has no mileage limit. The Model 3’s battery pack is also covered for eight years and 100,000 miles, but it comes with a guarantee that it’ll be refurbished or replaced if it drops below 70% of the as-new performance within the warranty period. Both cars are well equipped. Our Model 3 test car came with no optional equipment at all, yet had all the comforts and conveniences you could want of an executive car, while finding a used Model S with an appealing spec isn’t hard at all. Adaptive cruise control, keyless entry, LED headlights, full sat nav, over-the-air software updates, heated seats and leather upholstery are included on both. The full 'Autopilot' semi-autonomous driving system is one expensive option that adds a lot to the value of a used Model S, or will cost £5,800 to spec on a new Model 3. For the price of a high-spec Model S 75D, you can also easily be looking at the Long Range or Performance versions of the Model 3, which get satellite-view navigation, different (and better-looking) wheel design and an upgraded sound system. Not to mention hysterical pace and four-wheel drive. Notably, the Model S falls down next to the Model 3 on monthly costs, which could really be the deciding factor for many. A fairly modest deposit of £6,000 will see monthly costs for a Model 3 Standard Range drop to around £400, while even a used Model S (if you go through the Tesla approved used finance channel, at least) is likely to be closer to £800 per month. Our sister site BuyaCar also has a small selection of used Tesla cars for sale. Warranty and battery cover The Tesla gets a standard manufacturer warranty of four years or 50,000 miles, which is pretty low on the mileage side, but does cover a longer time period than most rivals. The batteries are covered for eight years; the Model S has no mileage limit while the Model 3 gets cover for 100,000 miles but also has a performance promise of at least 70%. Depreciation The Model 3 is predicted to hold 69% of its value after three years and 36,000 miles, which equates to £25,645 and is a fairly remarkable rate of retention. For context, a new BMW 320d M Sport is predicted to hold 45% and be worth £17,173. It’s worth bearing in mind that comparatively small loss in value if you’re considering paying on finance; those with the means to buy the Model 3 outright could well find it’s cheaper to do so and then sell on. Buying a used Model S means that you’ve already dodged the worst of the loss in value, of course. Looking at how other Model S’ – even those with rear-wheel drive or smaller batteries than the 75D we’d go for – are still holding their value, so depreciation is likely to be impressively slow. Especially in comparison with the generally very poor resale values of big executive cars. Company-car costs Going electric is a guaranteed way to cut your company-car tax bills, and the Model 3 is one of the best going. In 2020/21 business users didn’t have to pay anything in Benefit-in-Kind, while in 2021/22 it costs just £169 a year. If your company will fork out the lease or purchase costs to get you into a Model 3, then it’s an absolute no-brainer. Running costs & warranty scores
- 4Driving & performanceThe 75D is hilariously fast despite being one of the ‘lesser’ Model S variants, while the Model 3 feels perfectly judged for UK roads
- 5Interior, comfort & practicalityThe Model 3 has nothing on the Model S for space and practicality, and many will prefer the more conventional dials of the S as well
- 6Verdict - currently readingThere's no bad car here, so you can pick which one suits your lifestyle and budget best, but the Model 3’s lower costs sway it for us